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Eric Futoran talks balancing player experience, sustainability, and monetisation

Embrace CEO and former Scopely co-founder discusses player engagement, ad engagement, and game mechanics with Half Moon Studios CEO Pieter Kooyman
Eric Futoran talks balancing player experience, sustainability, and monetisation
  • The 10th anniversary of Pocket Gamer Connects London was full of fascinating conversations across a whole range of games industry subject matters
  • Embrace CEO and former Scopely co-founder Eric Futoran revealed all about the Monopoly GO maker’s early days, building a gaming giant, and balancing player experience with running a business
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2024's 10th anniversary event for Pocket Gamer Connects London was full of fascinating conversations across a whole range of games industry subject matters.

Among them, former Scopely co-founder Eric Futoran took to the stage to reveal all about the Monopoly GO maker’s early days, building a gaming giant, and balancing player experience with running a business.

Futoran has since co-founded and moved to Embrace as its CEO, but back in 2011 he built the entire publishing model at Scopely and was the first product manager on Yahtzee - the mobile version of Hasbro’s dice game - despite knowing "basically nothing about games" at the time.

Nevertheless the game proved to be the foundation of Scopely and was since followed by hits like Star Trek Fleet Command, Kingdom Maker, Scrabble GO and Monopoly GO.

The ad experience

When Yahtzee first launched, Scopely was "hesitant to show an ad" but ended up testing short, skippable ads every turn. "We needed to monetise, so we would track the KPIs like crazy - LTV, churn - and ads never affected the KPIs. People would come back. Then, eventually, we were showing 30-second non-skippable after every turn, and again the KPIs were never affected," Futoran said.

"It was amazing. We were making tonnes of money on this game and people were watching ads longer than they were playing the game."

He went on to share how this formula and its impact on player experience "was obviously not something we were proud of, but we were making money", and noted how the mobile games industry is all about tradeoffs.

"How do you trade between what we all care about - building a really clean, fun game to play - but also making things that may not be in your players’ best interests?" he posed. "Player experience is about understanding how to build the best game possible, knowing that it has to be sustainable."

Futoran believes that Monopoly GO has struck this balance "probably more than any other game ever", having reached $1 billion in revenue after only seven months last year. Of course, 2023 was also the year Scopely was acquired by Savvy Games Group for nearly $5 billion, along with its prized portfolio.

At the same time, he warned game makers and business owners not to overlook employee satisfaction, as successful games end up closing down when engineers "stop wanting to work on problems".

yt

Want more?

Similarly insightful talks from the games sector can be expected in San Francisco this month as the Pocket Gamer Connects x Game Connection 2024 conference descends upon the city on March 18 and 19 - the definitive precursor to GDC week.

This premier event is a must-attend for developers, publishers, and industry professionals from all over the world, powering up your GDC visit with even more opportunities and potential.

Pocket Gamer Connects San Francisco x Game Connection 2024 offers a dedicated platform to explore the latest trends, network with game pioneers, and unlock new opportunities within this thriving space.

See you at the show!